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Rengifo, A. F. and DeWitt, S. (2019).  Incarceration and personal networks. Unpacking meanings and measures of tie strength. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 35:393-431.

The advent of mass incarceration has reinvigorated calls for a deeper understanding of how the “quality of relationships” is shaped by imprisonment (Travis J, Western B, Redburn S (eds), The growth of incarceration in the United States: exploring causes and consequences, National Academies Press, Washington DC, 2014). We address this issue by describing how imprisonment relates to four dimensions of tie strength in a sample of South Bronx residents.We draw on a series of survey-based multilevel models to examine how tie strength relates to characteristics of respondents and their self-reported contacts (N1 = 585 ties, N2 = 97 egos) regarding (a) frequency, (b) duration, (c) multiplexity, and (d) reciprocity.

Ties of formerly-incarcerated persons are of shorter duration and exhibit less overlap relative to other respondents. However, markers of general association across the sample to currently/formerly incarcerated persons correlate with alter-ego ties that are more frequent, long-lasting, and multi-dimensional.  There is some support for the notion that direct exposure to incarceration is linked to a weakening of ties akin to a “knifing-off” process (Maruna and Roy, J Contemp Crim Justice 23(1):104–124, 2007). Indirect exposure to incarceration may follow an inverse pattern, strengthening the ties among those “left behind”.